at the crossroads

hecate-1

‘Hecate’ by Claudia Olivos, olivosartstudio.com

For the past six weeks, I participated in an on-line course with Mary Pierce Brosmer about making meaning of our post-election world. Accordingly, I suspended my plan for a multi-part ‘divided we fall’ series here. Instead, I have spent the intervening weeks reading a wide range of texts including but not limited to John McCain’s February 17th remarks at the Munich Security Conference; selections from Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser’s A Clear and Present Danger, Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, and Ken Wilber’s Trump and a Post-Truth World, among others.

We spent six weeks reading, sharing remarkably relevant poems written long since, writing and sharing our words, discussing, questioning, opening our hearts to difference and our minds to ‘what next.’ During this same six weeks, I traveled twice to southwestern PA to be with my sister in her final days; welcomed my third grandchild into a family filled with February birthdays; and sat with several of ‘my’ prison writers through unimaginable trauma and personal tragedy.

Clearly, this has been a time rich with change on so many levels, transformations both anticipated and not. Above all, it has been a time to open up, expand information sources, broaden opinions and challenge my role in the larger world. While a continuing work in progress, I did not want to remain silent any longer on this page. As a result, I share here my final writing for that life-questioning course of words and ideas – and intentions for going forward. Next time I will return to ‘divided we fall – 2.’

Thank you for reading. And as always, I welcome – no, encourage! – your thoughtful responses to what you read here.

AT the CROSSROADS
That November crossroads stemmed from the tangle of tarnished truths
but I was slow to go there, lost as I was in the thicket of win-lose
when the multi-faceted is what I believe. Now we are offered
loyalty or disdain, history or ignorance, hope or despair.

How can this be our only choice? We have arrived at a crossroads
of morality. And though multiply manifest, it is the voice
of truth that must prevail, the voice of compassion
for us all – earth, sea, sky, collective spirit and soul.

I knew the night birth and death converged that we are in
for deep transformation, needing not to ‘get over’ or past
but to spell truth – yours, mine, ours. A time to speak out
past the divide and into the void, to speak without ceasing.

Thus am I pulled to provide all that I can – insight
and light to help guide the lost from personal hells,
reunite torn-apart mothers with daughters, guarding
ground and reason until mutual respect shall

in deed reign, parting the darkness of derision and disgust.
We must persevere until light seeps through every crack,
shattering false divisions to reveal the common bedrock
of our shared humanity.
swb (c) 2017

coming back

credit -

credit – sonja parfitt

Like many of you, I have been cocooning from public life for many months. It has been hard to figure out what to say. The cross-currents in my head and heart have managed to keep my fingers from the keyboard.

But that is changing, here, now. Time to emerge and start writing. Again. Because this is what I do, and this is what needs to be done. Luckily for me, I have regular gigs writing inside our local women’s prison, which gives me plenty of fodder to jump-start this blog. So here goes – writing done last Thursday to a mixed prompt. You may recognize the first part as being a line from Mary Oliver’s beloved ‘Wild Geese.’ The second part is from Barbara Sher, Refuse to Choose!

Perhaps you, too, have pondered the image of the ‘soft animal of your body’ and considered responding to it in some way. I’d love to see your words.

“Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves… Stick with it. Start now.”

Just who is the soft animal of my body?
Is she the white belly who never sees
light of day, who loves dark chocolate
and feels the quiver of anxiety at the sea change ahead,
that ‘gut brain’ I have come to trust but slowly?

Or is she the soft brain, whose hard shell
holds in protective embrace the myriad thoughts
coursing through the veins of my life, pulsing
alarm while quashing them with the knowing
that I must go on, be strong, reach out, take in.

Perhaps she is the heart of mine that beats
with so much love and compassion for each of you,
for all of us so divided and categorized and walled off
from truth, from feeling, from the very humanity
that will save us all, earth included.

Because my heart does love what she loves
and fiercely – truth, fairness, opportunity,
kindness, compassion, the need to offer my hand
or a hug, to cast beauty
and healing upon these tumultuous times

one circle, one poem, one dream,
one good conversation, one day at a time.

swb
11.10.16

 

 

spin – part 2

silent scream

touchdrawing by deborah koff-chapin

When I posted ‘spin – part 1 ,’ I had a long series in mind. In the days (weeks now) since, I have instead experienced a painful staunching of the throat. So filled with outrage at the sticky threads of injustice and untruth in the current political sphere (I cannot bring myself to say ‘discourse,’ though I long for it), my words have literally stuck in my throat. My hands are of no use. Everywhere I turn, I feel cliche. “Nice guys finish last.” “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” “What you don’t know, you make up.”

And I’m left holding so much inside that I cannot possibly express it all. Not in a lifetime. More to the point, I want so very desperately to DO something about all the silencing. For me, that’s what it comes down to.

One man’s spin is another’s silencing.

Images flood through me. From personal experience. From history. From popular culture… Marketers and mongers move messages. The hard workers, the deep thinkers, the ethical humanitarians, those motivated by compassion, truth and authenticity, those who understand that we are connected in this being human that we share – theirs are not the voices in the ‘news’ or the media. Meaning, it seems, is not a prime time value.

And why not? Because what actually needs to be done is not popular. Because the values that create change hold no commercial cache. Because some one needs to hold our world together while the angry ones rave. Because some of us would rather work on solving the long list of real issues facing us – ALL of us – rather than fomenting trumped-up fear by spinning the world around their own exaggerated axis.

the new in the shell of the old

I love the concept of the new growing in the shell of the old. It’s the language of transformation. And the age-old reality of life. Which is what I’ve been focused on very intently for the past many months.

Full Circle Festival is just around the corner in Burlington VT, the first-ever festival to celebrate the heart and art of aging. We have an incredible line-up of dance, music, poetry, story-telling, art shows and talks, panel discussions, fitness, comedy, food demonstrations and interactive activities for the whole multi-generational family. Starting with one of my favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye giving the keynote on Friday night, April 11th.

While I have been gathering images, wise and witty sayings, and inspirational stories of creativity in the elderly (which, by the way, almost guarantees long and happy life, seriously!) to engender interest on the facebook page, I have noticed how all around me this simple perennial process is happening.

Yesterday, while staring idly out my kitchen window, I realized that the fat robin resting on the railing in the sun had just recycled the holiday berries lingering in the windowbox among fading greens and twigs. Making something new from the shell of the old!

I think of Gandhi who said/he might never have become
an activist for nonviolence/if the neighbor boys had not
beaten him up. – Naomi Shihab Nye, from ‘Communication Skills’ in  Honeybees

beneath my words

fernWHAT HIDES BENEATH MY WORDS?*
      thanks to “Hidden,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

feelings, thoughts, hope more
visible each passing day

working into light, the page,
awareness of their presence

and mine growing softer
edges, stronger heart;

muscled words crafting
life    versed   manifest

time layering the trail
of then to now, deepening

as winter’s seed potent
with spring blooms
 
silent passion into change
one season to the next.

swb